Kicking the Tires of Point 2 NLS

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Real estate technology provider Point 2 launched a new service yesterday that they’re pitching as a replacement to the local MLS systems. Their new National Listing Service (Point2 NLS) bills itself as a new way for real estate professionals to advertise listings to each other.

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From their press release:

Point2 NLS is designed to give real estate professionals complete control of their marketing relationships and of their most valuable marketing assets – their listings.

I think it’s an interesting experiment. There’s no doubt the role the MLS plays in the industry is evolving (see Windermere and Google Base Team Up), but as Point2 CEO Brendan King puts it in his blog:

the power in the MLS is advertising and organized cooperation amongst professionals.

On paper, Point2 NLS is designed to do just this – to help Realtors market their listings to one another. Jeff Tomlin, one of Point2’s developers, describes it as:

[a] marketing system that allows real estate professionals to cooperatively market their listings online with complete control.

I tried to go and sign up for Point2NLS but couldn’t because, oh yeah, Point 2 doesn’t let me use Firefox. (see (Don’t) Get On the Net: Point2.com)

But this time, for the sake of exploration, I fired up Parallels (the new Coherence mode is fantastic by the way) and reluctantly launched Internet Explorer 7.0 (see Internet Explorer Unsafe for 284 Days in 2006).

I signed up for the site and jumped into the back end. First impressions, I’m not a great fan of Point2’s design ethos – it’s a little too clip-arty for my tastes, but the functionality is certainly there and the process to add a listing was pretty straightforward.

What I quickly realized is that Point2 NLS is really just a way of leveraging the existing Point2 engine to allow any Realtor (you still need to be a licensed professional, so no FSBOs for now) to create a single online listing – without having to buy into the whole Point2 ecosystem right away.

The real innovation is being the ability to quickly and easily create specific property mini sites that can be pushed out to the Point2 network, Google Base, Yahoo!, oodle and many other online venues. In this sense, it positions Point2NLS against with other startups like vFlyer and Postlets. I still think vFlyer has them beat on the reporting/statistics side though. (see vFlyer Posts Your Listings For You).

Where Point2 has a decided advantage is in the size of its existing network of users. Over 100,000 members (104,972 to be exact) and the mechanisms already in place to market internally to them – Point2 calls the technology Handshake. Granted, this merely a fraction of the total number of Realtors in the US (1,357,732 as of Dec. 31, 2006 – NAR: About NAR) but it’s still a fairly sizable base to target your marketing to.

Overall I think Point2 NLS is ambitious but good idea and it’ll be interesting to see if it catches on outside of existing Point2 community (see Jay’s take on it at The Phoenix Real Estate Guy).

What would be really great would be if Point2NLS incorporated some of the social networking features (i.e. stickiness) of the ActiveRain network. Or conversely, for ActiveRain to adopt Point2NLS’ property marketing aspects. Now there would be a winning combination.